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Jessica Mealey and Katie Burke found certain women being ignored when it came to fashion. After plenty of work, “lot of laughs,” and “a few decorating disasters,” the duo are set with Structure Wardrobe and Style. Mealey says one of their biggest challenges was the wait, but they learned patients. “We had amazing assistance locally with the [funding] process, but it was difficult to wait for meetings, paper work, applications, while in our minds, the wheels were in constant motion!” Jokes aside the major lesson learned was that, “dedication and confidence take on a whole new meaning when starting up a business.”

The idea is service. Structure plans to give its clients attention, “it’s about embracing your size, learning to dress for your body, and bringing clients appropriate clothing that enables them to achieve a desired look. People can expect trendy hip clothing made for them; clothing that is designed well and flatters each and every shape.”

Structure has furnished its racks with designer clothing by “researching plus size women; what they find most appealing, and what they feel is missing from the existing plus size stores.” Then the two took off; Mealey jet-set away to a plus size fashion expo in Toronto, taking in runways and meeting designers. “Katie spent some time in New York visiting showrooms and networking to find out what’s hot and what the latest trends are in plus size fashions.”

Most of what they’ve sourced in terms of product is American, though one line hails from Toronto; that’s not to say they’re not open to more Canadian content. “We’d love to find a local designer who was interested in creating some pieces. We’ll also be looking into local accessory designers and local artists/photographers to display their work in our space.”

Everything from belts to jewellery will be available to accessorize and the ladies plan to offer up some specialty lingerie and undergarments in the near future.

Worried all this sounds a bit too lavishly expensive? Mealey assures that “Structure has something for everyone.” The price ranges are variable and while still designer, they plan to carry casual wear along with the career and high fashion lines.

Located in Churchill Square, the boutique will offer “a very modern, yet very comfortable” atmosphere with “a large retail space, seating area and a more separated studio room for make-up applications and consultations.” Burke and Mealey wanted to go for “the feeling of an exclusive women’s club.”

Still striving to offer women even more, Structure will offer “makeup for all women, for any occasion,” with regular application ($50.00) or by airbrush ($70.00). They’re currently only offering the service but eventually plan to offer full makeup lines. For those Brides out there wondering, Structure will do group bookings for makeup applications and will also do special orders for gowns through their designer suppliers.

Structure Wardrobe and Style opens May 1st at 11:00am with the Grand Opening on May 2nd in the evening complete with refreshments and a fashion show previewing this season’s hottest looks.

The ladies of Herstory

The ladies of Herstory

Originally commissioned by Rising Tide in 2005, Sara Tilly wrote the first draft of The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland (and Labrador!).  She then developed it with Berni Stapleton through the RCA’s Write On! Program before a series of staged readings in 2006 and 2007.  Now on its sixth draft, the show will have its premier as a co-production between RCA and She Said Yes!  Tilly is co-directing with Lois Brown and the show promises saucy humour that will make you think.  It’s presented as a blend of traditional theatre with clown improvisation.  “This silly and strange show is grounded in familiar and universal human emotions,” says Tilly.  Both Sara and Lois spent some time to tell Current a little more:

Clown development can be difficult, can you speak to that?
ST – There’s a lot of different types of clown training and approaches to what ‘is’ a clown. I’m trained in Pochinko Clown Through Mask and the process begins with mask work using your own mask, then transference to a clown nose and potentially into a non-nose, Joey clown. We’re not in red noses for this show. These are sophisticated, adult clowns, not as innocent or as bumbling as the red nose variety, with a much larger vocabulary than your standard circus clown. You wear the mask and let it move you, then take that energy and keep it going when the mask comes off. This way, you allow your character to take the lead organically. We follow impulse in rehearsal and let it dictate how to create the show.

How do you turn your clown on?
ST – It comes from the mask. We spent a two weeks in January working with masks and taking that physical exploration; now we’re comfortable experimenting within these clowns and can find their full range of emotions and tics. There’s no need to have the nose if you are intent – we’re using headgear like swim caps as a character anchor.

Who is in the cast and how did they come together?
ST – The cast is my dream team and I’m glad they were all able to do it! Susan Kent is playing the director (Herr) and Ruth Lawrence is the star actress (Prima). Lois Brown is the old-school feminist theatremaker and visual artist and writer Craig Francis Power, in his first onstage role, as the lighting operator (Noseworthy). I play Squirrel, the stage manager, who is thrust into the show after Janice has an accident with her curling iron.

How have they all done getting into the world of clowning?
ST – This has been an amazing group to work with and I thank my lucky stars that I have such open, talented artists. They’re all naturals and it’s been a belly laugh and a half leading them through the clown work and watching these characters come into their own.

Who else is involved behind the scenes?
ST – I’m designing the set, costumes and props; Sean Panting is designing sound, Jamie Skidmore is designing lights and Craig Francis Power is doing the projection design.

How much of a history lesson will the show be?
LB – I think there is a fair bit of history there – but because Sara is showing us how we bend history for political reasons.

ST – Well, most of the ‘facts’ are true. The truth was, in most cases, funnier or more bizarre than anything I could think of. It’s how we mess with the facts that make it a questionable lesson. More like a weird and hilarious dream involving a lot of historical detail. I think more than anything you might be tempted to look a few things up later to see if we made them up.

What’s the overall concept and storyline of the show?
LB – Legendary feminist theatre artist Janice pokes herself in the eye with a red-hot curling iron minutes before showtime on opening night and dies. Marco is debilitated after being trapped under the Death on the Ice set. Noseworthy is stoned. And Squirrel the stage manager turned actress is so scared that she pisses herself several times during the opening number. That leaves the director, Herr who is in love with her star, Prima. They say show must go on.  How will the Estro-collective do it? It’s a show that not only satirizes Newfoundland history and feminism – it satirizes itself. It takes the notions of patriarchy, feminism, Newfoundland history and the way we tell it and mocks it all. It’s irreverent. Takes the piss out of everything, really.

The show runs March 24 – 26th at the Majestic Theatre in St. John’s, check out for more information.

There are tons of different ways to mark Ireland’s internationally recognized feast holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.  It is an interesting national celebration that’s seemed to have gotten the whole world involved over the centuries.  Chicago dyes its river green and just last year they gave green water a shot in Trafalgar Square as well.  Another interesting tradition in the UK was a presentation of freshly cut shamrocks flown over by the Queen Mother and given to the Irish Guards.  Here in Canada, we’re proud to have the longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade in North America, on the go since 1824.  Given that Newfoundland isn’t exactly a young European settlement, here too have the celebrations long been shared, and the people that know how to do it best are the folks at O’Reilly’s.

They’re up to their 13th year in business and have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with their patrons, old and new alike for every single one of them.  You might remember, they only moved into their current location about two years ago and they’re already into expansion.  When all is said and done, O’Reilly’s will be a two floor joint and will feature paintings that are being done by Derrick Holmes.  The carpentry is looked after by Paddy Mackey, who’ll have even more on his hands in the spring when they plan to do a full on exterior facelift to the building.  No less, even though the establishment is in the middle of renovations, they’re still going full steam ahead with their jam packed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations!

O’Reilly’s means business when they say celebrations too, with six back to back days planned, everything gets started on Thursday March 12 with the Pre-Paddy’s Day Bash featuring both The Punters and their special guest Fergus O’Byrne.  Not to mention, that night there will be reduced bar prices, food and prize giveaways.  Over the weekend, right up until Monday, March 16th – O’Reilly’s will welcome a sizeable cast of musical performers to its stage that include Greeley’s Reel, Tarahan, Dungarven, Siochana, Achara, Chris Hennessy, Bill Kelly and the Masterless Men.

Making sure to leave consideration to sleep in the next day, they’ve also planned a “Carvery” Lunch Buffet everyday from Friday to Tuesday for $15.00; and if you really want to challenge yourself “to get worm,” you can aim for the Annual Paddy’s Day Breakfast for the same price.  Serving up traditional Irish-Newfoundland breakfast specialties, there will be music by Fergus O’Byrne and his son that morning as well.

Essentially, O’Reilly’s has taken care of planning an entire mini-festival all its own – all you need do is pull up a stool.  Like the Chicago River tinted green, your Guinness will be as well.  And, by the way, Guinness has a sign that reads, “Everyone’s Irish on March 17th,” outside their distillery.  That seems to be the thing about St. Patrick’s Day; it totally doesn’t even matter if you’re Irish.  It’s just one big party!  It’s so big they’ve even got a “Win to Get In” promotion, the winner of which will be determined at the Thursday kick off event.  The main prize to set your sights on – a trip to Newfoundland to experience the O’Reilly’s mini-festival extravaganza celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Newfoundland style.

For more information on exact event line ups or the Catch the Plane to Paddy’s Day promotion you can have a look at the O’Reilly’s Pub website at

Now on its 4th road show, the Nickel is ready to hit the pavement.  In total, 10 films go on the road but this year, half of them are from first timers!  The Nickel has a history of supporting new and emerging filmmakers so it’s no surprise to that they flock to it with their first films.  Welcomed with no hesitation, The Nickel believes the purpose of independent festivals like theirs is to inspire new and experienced filmmakers to submit anything.  “New filmmakers bring fresh thoughts and ideas to the table and we’re usually very impressed with the work,” said Executive Director Ruth Lawrence, making selection for the road show that much easier.  “The films selected for the road show are based on some of the most popular selections from the previous year’s festival!”

The ‘firsts’ come through a variety of sources that include NIFCO, CNA and MUN or they’ve simply been produced independently.  Ruth stopped packing up for a moment to tell me a bit more about them:

What are these 5 first timer’s films about?
Moose Adventures (Stephenville): A “modern” hunter meets his match in a battle of wits. A collaborative animation project, CNA class of 2008, directed by David Gale.

One of Us Cannot Be Right (St. John’s): Embittered by a recent break-up, Mandy seeks comfort at a bar frequented by the lonely and reclusive. Here she meets Mike. Undeniably drawn to one another, their mutual irritation quickly turns to attraction.  Directed by Jacqueline Hynes.

Lionel Lonely Heart (St. John’s): A broken-hearted middle aged man begins to receive mysterious roses in the mail.  Lionel begins to seek out his secret admirer. Directed by Stephen Dunn through the NIFCO first time filmmaker’s course.

Mary Power (St. John’s): The film honours the life of Mary Power and helps to preserve the rich traditions which she’s been a part of. A colourful piece and a must for anyone who loves a good story.  Directed by Michelle Jackson.

City Song (St. John’s): A look at the life of Steve Doiron, a local busker. Everyone knows him as “the guy with the dog” who plays on the corner of George and Water Street. The doc introduces the man behind the music.  Directed by Justin Madol, Nicci Hearn and Victoria Wells through MUN’s Performance and Communications Media Program.

What is the goal of doing this road show?
It’s to showcase some of our best films from the previous year to broaden exposure for local and international short films. It’s not often areas outside of St. John’s have the opportunity to view a selection of short independent films and the road show can interest and inspire budding filmmakers from all over Newfoundland. It’s important to support local talent so we ensure there is always an array of local material up on the screen.

What can people expect for the 2009 Nickel?
With the LSPU Hall closed for renovations we had to find another location for screening so we moved to the INCO building at MUN. So far we’ve had an abundance of submissions both local and internationally, as far away as Israel! We’re seeing innovative animations, thought provoking dramas, wonderful comedies, cutting edge experimental films and some really great horror shorts. We can already see the selection process being challenging! You can expect our children’s matinee and late night horror screenings as well as informative workshops taught by leading industry filmmakers.

The Nickel film festival will take place from June 23 – 27 with the road show busily drumming up excitement in Stephenville, Corner Brook and Clarenville throughout March.  Tickets are only $10 and you get a 90 minute presentation.  Go to for more details.

– Joshua Jamieson

Current 10 Year Cover

Current 10 Year Cover

My involvement with Current began over a sandwich and a chocolate dipped doughnut at the Tim’s that used to be attached to the Ultramar on Elizabeth Avenue (in all fairness, the new one just up the road on Torbay is much nicer).  I had been asked to meet Karla Hayward, a contact from my past who’d reconnected with me on Facebook.   She had seen a note I’d posted (not one of the questionnaires, an actual note) which compared America’s Next Top Model to Larry King Live. Admittedly, it was more about admiration for Larry King then anything else but nonetheless it had caught Karla’s attention. I’m not sure if it was the journalistic admiration or the writing in the piece that led her to invite me on board, perhaps a bit of both, but there hasn’t been a single day since that I haven’t felt in love with what I get to do with Current.

As Roger so aptly put it, this paper is a labour of love. Everyone that has been involved with it over the last decade has more then likely had another ‘main’ job, or at least something else to supplement. From my experience most everything in the arts scene is of that nature, unless of course one is extremely fortunate. But it’s not just about the money. I recently learned about a 20-something named Tony Hsieh, he’s a young guy who happened to be one of the co-founders of LinkExchange which he got $265 million for when Microsoft came sniffing around. Not to shabby. He’s a shoe salesman now. Why you ask? He’s in it for the love; because he didn’t want to stop programming and he founded which went from a speck on the net in 1998 to being worth over $1 billion 10 years later. In a recent interview I’d watched with him where I learned of this, he was asked what his best advice was and he said all you can do is work at what you love and if it’s genuine and where you really want to be, the money will come.

Current is about the experience, for the writers, editors, designers, photographers and most importantly the readers.The writers get to bring an experience or share a story with the people who grab an issue with their coffee. Or, perhaps an article will get that reader involved somehow or help plan a great weekend. It’s about the community, what’s going on in it and the paper evolves, to that effect. Current is nice slice of St. John’s life that tracks our culture and trends; everything from our music scene to books, theatre, wine, sex and community issues. “If you’ve got something to say Current wants to hear about it,” is a slogan Ally Baird, the present editor, applied when she established the paper’s Facebook group and that’s been true since the first issue. In her time as editor along with Jim Baird as publisher, Current has already surmounted what many thought would be a challenge, going weekly. Since the fall of 2008 we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to offer up the Current slice of life every Friday. So, while 10 years later we’re all not exactly a billion bucks richer, we have our weekly achievement.

My journey has led me to cover a lot since that chocolate dipped doughnut, going from an occasional column to one or two a week, co-editing a few issues here and there. Sure it’s more work but it’s also done with a great sense of pride and privilege. I have gotten the sense that this is a widely shared sentiment amongst all those that have contributed to Current over the last 10 years. Our commemorative cover represents the faces of some past and present contributors, those that work in the front lines and behind the scenes to put each issue in your hands, every week. We’re all only to happy to do it and look forward to another great 10 years. Aw, make that 20!

originally published December 2008

CFMA logo

CFMA logo

With Edmonton and Ottawa among previous host cities the Canadian Folk Music Awards, created in 2005, will be brought east for the first time ever to St. John’s. The CFMA’s were created in response to the fact that there seemed to be a nation-wide void for recognition of folk and roots music. While the Juno’s and the East Coast Music Awards make considerations, the CFMA’s were designed to publicize the many achievements of the entire genre, across the country for the whole year. Pairing up the CFMA’s and St. John’s couldn’t make more sense, without even mentioning the phenomenally successful annual Folk Festival, the province has strongly developed it’s culture into a tourism charm, with the folk music scene and overall lifestyle playing a strong part.

This has already been a memorable year for many Newfoundland folkies, with the reunion of hall of famers Figgy Duff who returned to the stage for four performances in 2008. Kelly Russell said “all it took to say yes was a phone call from Pamela Morgan, ‘n we were all in,” and so a 9 year hiatus was broken. “She wanted to put out a live CD and do a release for it,” Russell shared. That took place at the Bella Vista but the highlight for Russell was at the Folk Festival the next day. “For the older crowd there was a sense of nostalgia and the chance to see us again but for the young people it was a chance to see us actually perform.” Figgy Duff did make a return to the stage in 1999 as well marking their silver anniversary and still 34 years later they have a strong fan base and will be one of the most anticipated highlights of the 2008 CFMA Gala.

The group’s reunion certainly won’t serve as the exclusive highlight though if the line up of performers is any indication. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Murray McLauchlan and two-time Juno winner AlexCuba will also take the stage. Enoch Kent, an acclaimed Scottish traditional music singer is set to perform as well as the Juno-nominated Aboriginal a cappella group Asani.

Another performance featuring Blue Rodeo accompanist and two-time CFMA winner Anne Lindsay alongside Smithers piano accompanist Emilyn Stam will get a little help from the fiddle students of St. John’s Suzuki Talent Education Program (STEP fiddlers) to pay tribute to Oliver Schroer, a renowned Toronto fiddler, died of leukemia in July at 52. He developed a teaching concept called Schroer’s Twisted String in which he made squads of colourfully-dressed young fiddlers and taught them music he’d written in a fun and interesting way. Stam is a graduate of the Smithers squad and for the tribute will pay it forward, teaching a Schroer number to the STEP fiddlers.

The spotlight is also on Schroer, who leads the pack of nominees with a total of four nods for his album Hymns and Hers, one of three albums recorded in his short year long battle with the disease. He’s up for Contemporary Album of the Year, Solo Instrumentalist of the Year, Producer of the Year and the Pushing the Boundaries award. Behind him with three nominations apiece are Vancouver roots singer/songwriter Wyckham Porteous and Nova Scotia fiddler Troy MacGillivray.

Award nominations for Newfoundland artists totals two – one for Daniel Payne up for Traditional Songwriter of the Year and one for Rik Barron nominated for Children’s Album of the Year. Within the National picture, Atlantic Canada has 5 nominations including the two for the host-province. The others all went to Nova Scotia’s Dave Carroll of Halifax for Contemporary Singer of the Year and Chrissy Crowly and Drumlin each nominated in the Young Performer of the Year category.

To suit the truly National scope that the awards promote, the gala will be presented en francais aussi. The gala’s hosting duo is made up of CBC radio-legend Shelagh Rogers and Quebec traditional dance expert and Juno award winning musician Benoit Bourque, who has been recognized by the United States government which provides him with funding to teach Quebecois traditions to Franco-Americans. Rogers has been getting noticed, or heard rather, since 1980 with the CBC becoming the youngest female on-air starting in Ottawa. She has been the host of many national CBC programs, most recently The Next Chapter – a weekly program devoted to Canadian writing of all kinds.

The two will host the gala event which will take place in St. John’s at the Arts and Culture Centre at 8:00pm and tickets are still available for $44.00 from the box office. WestJet’s notably kicked in a 10% discount for anyone flying to the Capital city for the fourth annual awards which will no doubt a cultural highlight early on in the winter season. A series of four workshops will also be offered to anyone interested on the days book ending gala itself which is on November 23, 2008. For more information about these, the complete list of nominees or more event details the CFMA website can be of service at

originally published November 2008

“A boat that floats on air has no heart,” Jack (John Dartt) says aboard the Miss Tilley, the rumrunners boat on which the entire play takes place, in the round, for Berni Stapleton’s latest comedic but historically relevant and poignant masterpiece, A Rum for the Money. The show had a long ‘rum’ itself, featured from June to September at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival before a final run in the capitol city.

Dartt, White & Furlong — Photo by Denyse Karn

L-R: Dartt, White & Furlong — Photo by Denyse Karn

The show is about Jack and two other men, Jim (Evan White) and his Uncle Frank (Colin Furlong). Jack and Frank were the seasoned experts of rum running but took Jim, a boat builder who’s afraid of the water, along for his young strength. Their conversations made references to life and culture of Newfoundland – the ‘divide’ of people smoking rollies versus tailor-mades, Hard Buns, “that’s a raisin bun without the raisins,” Tibbo’s store and Foote’s Taxi – not only helping to familiarize an audience with the setting but also the men themselves. The references weren’t overkill; interestingly, women so often wonder what men would say in the place of chick-chat and this seemed to be it.

They shared their stories as a way of allowing one another to get to know them. Though Dartt is from Halifax he can certainly talk like a Newfoundlander. Though the stories it was evident that while they are all quite different and rum running for their own reasons, they were all struggling against something. Uncle Frank is plagued with forcing doubt in his own polished abilities with no cause immediately given. He references his hateful wife but is on the run to afford her “one of them new fangled rotary phones.”

Jim’s reason is a baby on the way with his wife Lizzie whom he’s madly fallen for. Although his excitable and sometimes overactive personality is charming, Lizzie’s patience with him is clear by how he speaks of her. Teaching him to read and write, he shared, she said that “a man can’t be expected to learn all at once ‘cos his head’d get stogged!” Jack’s mission for the money is to move to the big city (St. John’s, not New York) and go out on Saturday, church on Sunday and Bingo on Monday, but the real prize will be his new dentures – “the good kind – the kind that fits your mouth.”

On the voyage back with the rum the three face perils of nature, being ill-prepared and themselves. The set was designed with half a dory cut to be creatively used for the entire show. The old boat’s wood creaked when the actors moved around on it which kicked up the ‘real’ factor. There was an engine aboard for which there was sound when it was being started but once it was ‘running’ the sound cue ended there was a calm silence again. Having a low hum might’ve been monotonous on an audience for as long as it would be needed but a faint sound of water rippling along the boat now and then might have held on to the realism. Vocal tracks leading in and out of the acts were good and a story told in act two by Frank with Jim singing underneath was surprising and beautiful.

Overall the show was very entertaining. The only beat missed was when a cobbled together wooden cross made in the darkest hour tumbled off the boat but it was handled with grace. The full package of ambient blue lighting, punchy and thoughtful script, the set and performances did an excellent job of dramatically telling the stories of three rumrunnin’ men and taking it’s audience back in time for an evening.

originally published October 2008

Newfoundlanders love showing off their home. Tourism in this province welcomes half a million people every year and locals become known and complimented as friendly and hospitable time and again. I love inviting friends from my travels to come visit me in the future. In August one from Toronto, relocated to London, UK came for a few days and thought there was something wrong with everyone here they were so nice. He had an incredibly memorable first visit. This month a friend of 5 years, also from Toronto, came back only 9 moths after his first visit. With major highlights covered, we planned to get the one we’d missed – a Screech In – covered during a boat tour but North East winds kept the boat in.

We went to Trapper John’s to end his trip with at least part of our plans for his last night. As we entered I joked they were the McDonald’s of the ceremony, comparing the “52,000 Screeched In” on the sign. Knowing Trapper’s had a frequency from bringing people there in the past, we went first thing to check if it was on the hour. It was about 5:30pm and a Cruise ship had arrived just a few hours earlier so we figured there’d be no trouble. The bartender said she finished at 6pm and the person starting then did the ceremony if we wanted to wait and ask her, she saw no reason why it couldn’t happen then or shortly after. So, we hung around and bought a couple of drinks. At 6pm a guy took over, letting us know she’d called in late and wouldn’t arrive until 7:30pm. He said he was new and not ready to do it himself so I left my cell number and said we could busy ourselves asking him to please call after talking to her.

By 7:35pm we’d still heard nothing and with everything done we went back. Sure enough she was there and just sitting on a stool. I approached and asked if she was the woman we’d been waiting for making a light joke. She nodded obviously indicating she knew some information, though we were never called. I continued, asking if we could get started after having waited a few hours and been told to come back at so many different times. She pointed to a dry erase board with “8pm” on it and said we’d have to wait until then. At that point I was completely done with waiting and frustrated. We left and tried Christian’s as plan B only to find out they do one Screech In daily – at 11:15pm. He told us it was $15 instead of $5 but the best, “by the guy that invented it!” I appreciated his enthusiasm and the fact that he’d been upfront from the start.

We continued to discuss our disappointment while picking up my friends last gifts at the Tickle Trunk. The clerk working overheard and kindly offered that the downtown Liquor Store across from Mile One also performs them, so we walked up there as a last stitch effort but they’d closed at 5:30pm, which was expected but we wanted to try at least. He appreciated all the effort and plans to return for a third trip, this time to leave the city and take a cross-island camping trip. I’m looking forward to it and finally making him an honorary Newfoundlander, as they say – third time’s a charm (most of the time)!

originally published August 2008

Donnie Darko Poster

Darko Poster

The 2001 mind bending thriller originally written by Richard Kelly who also directed the blockbuster film has been adapted by Jamie MacDonald, a project he’s been working on for quite some time. The story is set in Middlesex, Virginia back in 1988 and features a sleepwalking socially awkward Donnie who sees hallucinations and possibly borders as a schizophrenic though it’s never diagnosed. Frank, who only appears hidden in a rabbit costume, is Donnie’s imaginary friend who both saves him from a jet engine in his bedroom and warns of the apocalypse at midnight on October 2. Sound sensational? According to MacDonald, his stage version will not disappoint, he’s even got the jet engine to prove it.

For those that have no idea, what’s Donnie Darko all about?
It is about the ambiguity of life, the enlightenment and disorientation that everyone goes through.  It harnesses the harmony of anarchy, the optimism in apathy, and the destiny of chance.  Lost? Come see the show and you’ll understand what I’m saying, but somehow, you still won’t, and neither do I and maybe we’re not supposed too.

Why did you choose this film?
I wanted to do something that everyone would say was impossible and do it in such a way that people wouldn’t know how it was done.  I also wanted to show young people that theatre can actually kick ass.

Was it difficult to differentiate your adaptation from the film?
I feel like it’s not my job to differentiate from the film, just to make it possible and worth doing on stage, without compromising the themes and values of this incredible film.

What makes the “dark night” performances different?
Something tells me that it will be the audience that makes the difference in the ‘dark night’ shows (laughs). Truthfully though, the ‘dark night’ shows are less about what time they start, and more so about the time of night it will end. True Donnie Darko fans will know what time is significant to the movie, the time when all the chaos begins.

Sensational special effects – what can people expect?
An elaborate sound design which will blow people’s socks off and musical score that pays homage to the movie, without just straight up copying it. Film projections with digital enhancement that interacts directly with the actors as well as our UV light creations that I won’t divulge (it’s the ace up our sleeve). A full size jet engine that is more than just a jet engine; I’ve said too much already!

How big is the cast?
I believe it is 36 people, 22 leads and 14 people in the extra roles.  This doesn’t include backstage or promotions so our grand total of folks helping out may be around 50 or so.

Were there blocks omitted from the film either for personal choice or because of known challenges translating them for stage?
We have faced all the challenges that Donnie Darko presents head on!  We have bridged certain characters into one but pretty much all the classic dialogue is there, as well as extending certain scenes that we would’ve loved to hear in the movie. Some scenes that take place in the same location have been [blended] together (hopefully seamlessly). For example, the audience gets one 5 minute scene, which in the movie were five one minute scenes.

What are some of the highlights of the show and people to watch out for?
Things that fly, morph, glow, float and go bump in the night.

How to check it out?

Call Holy Heart Theatre at 579 4424 for tickets. Show nights are August 28-30. Regular start time is 8pm, plus Friday and Saturday have the “dark night” performances at 10:30pm.

S. Darko Poster

S. Darko Poster

Film Follow Up
For Donnie Darko fans who’ve hoped for more, a sequel for which Fox has already acquired North American distribution for is in the works and titled S. Darko. Being made for $10 million, Donnie will not return however Daveigh Chase will reprise as Samantha Darko, the story now focusing on her. This time Richard Kelly isn’t involved having said he never wanted a sequel to maintain the integrity of the original. The sequel will be directed by Chris Fisher who “hopes to create a similar world of blurred fantasy and reality.”

originally published July 2008

Laila Biali

Laila Biali

Vancouver native Laila Biali is among the standout artists attracted to this year’s Jazz Festival to run July 16th – 20th though it’s now known as the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues festival. Since its start in 2002, this will be the first year it incorporates blues artists as well as jazz. The Laila Biali Treo is suited by neither label really as Biali shared, she’s coming back to Newfoundland after long supporting tours for Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega supporting of her own album From Sea to Sky.

Have you been to St. John’s before?
Yes!  During my last year of high school our band trip went there and Nova Scotia.  I remember climbing down the coast to stand on the “easternmost tip of [North America].” Something about that was thrilling and stands out to this day.  I also recall looking out onto the Atlantic through mist and fog, being filled with a sense of history and wonder.

What are you looking forward to?
The joyous people!  I grew up in Vancouver and heard that Vancouverites are statistically the most depressed people in Canada and Newfoundlanders are the most joyful!  Not saying I agree, but somebody else apparently had the research to prove it! The delightful accents; one morning we were at a local diner ordering breakfast and our lovely waiter exuberantly repeated our orders.  None of us had a sweet clue what he was saying!  We were shocked at how strong his accent was and embarrassed we weren’t able to better understand! Everyone, including the waiter, had a laugh.

Any nervousness about covering Canadian ‘greats’?
Not particularly, though I felt it was an honour; something to be treated with seriousness and respect.

Who did you learn the most from, recording this album?
That’s a hard one.  I learn from everyone who’s involved with a project.  From the artists whose repertoire I was exploring to incredible musicians and engineers. I think Claire Lawrence, the producer, stood out amongst the rest in terms of his role and the number of things I learned.  He’s an incredibly diverse, experienced professional, who’s been a musician for many years and was the producer for CBC’s jazz beat show.  He’s worked with and produced many of the world’s best artists.  Claire is a very quiet man, almost shy, but bold in vision and very strong in opinions. He works incredibly well with artists, clear and opinionated but sensitive and cooperative.

How did you meet your various band members?
My first encounter with George Koller was at the distillery jazz festival, in 2004 I believe.  He was playing with “the shuffle demons” on one of the outdoor stages.  Something about him seemed mysterious and i was immediately drawn to him and his playing.  Then, during one raucous number he picked up his bass and started screaming.  That’s right. He just stood there and screamed.  The person next to me must have noted my surprised response and explained that George had recently traveled to some exotic jungle in central or South America and studied animal calls.  I don’t know if that was true (and believe it or not i still haven’t asked George himself!), but what i do know is that i have yet to meet as adventurous and experimental a musical spirit.  He’ll do anything!  And yet he never compromises the music.  It’s never the stuff of “circus stage antics.”  he is the real deal. I first heard Larnell Lewis, our drummer, on a demo that a former piano student of mine once brought into a lesson.  I was really impressed with the young man playing the bass, and my student told me it was this young multi-instrumentalist, Larnell. And i mean this guy was really playing the bass.  His pocket was amazing, and at that time he was only in high school.  Within the next couple of years, Larnell graduated and attended Humber College’s jazz program.  That was when word of his prodigious drumming got out.  The crème de la crème at Humber (teachers like Don Thompson) were buzzing about this new young drummer who sounded like Tony Williams.  I’d also heard only rave reviews about his personality.  Stuff like, “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.”  He was on my radar for a couple of years before i finally had the opportunity to work with him on “from sea to sky.”  Now he’s a part of the family, and we’re all just thrilled.

What was your favorite space to perform in and why?
That’s another tough question.  I have to admit that the capitol theatre in Moncton was stunning.  I believe it was, along with the adjoining “empress theatre,” one of the first built in Canada (1922).  The history of the theatre is incredibly colourful.  It was devastated by a fire just four years after it was built.  Once restored, it became a hub for vaudeville entertainment and then a major venue during the silent film era.  It was even left vacant for a relatively lengthy period of time.  Now it is one of our country’s heritage jewels.

What do you think drew you to piano?
According to my mom, it was Sesame Street, the popular kids show in the 80 that drew me to the piano.  The way she tells the story, I was just three and a half years old when I climbed onto the piano bench and plunked out the theme song.  I hadn’t been taught a note of piano yet I was able to play by ear.  She and my father, who had been considering enrolling me in gymnastics classes, quickly changed course and settled on piano lessons.  It was love at first note for me.  Even as a little girl, I’d dream of performing virtuosic concertos for large audiences, as a princess, of course.

Why were you attracted to this style and genre?
To be totally honest, initially it was by default that I got into jazz.  I ran into arm problems as an aspiring concert pianist in my teen years. It had been my dream to go to Juilliard and at the age of 12 I was already playing very demanding ARCT level repertoire.  By the time I hit age 15, all sorts of overuse symptoms had started to pop up, which is strange because, although I was very ambitious, I was never consistent with practicing.  But the arm problems were a very real issue, and eventually I had to stop playing classical music and take a break.  That was when I discovered jazz.  I was in my final years of high school and Mr. Rebagliati, the music teacher at Handsworth Secondary, started turning me onto a few jazz records and had me play in the senior combo.  But it wasn’t until i heard Kenny Wheeler perform at Humber College that I genuinely knew that jazz music was something I wanted to pursue longer term.  His music reminded me of the contemporary and impressionistic classic music I was in love with as a classical pianist.  But then there was this exciting element of improvisation. Suddenly, the gap between classical and jazz was bridged and I knew that I could find my voice here.

What’s the ultimate duet for you?
I would have to say Bobby McFerrin.  His duo record with Chick Corea, play is a desert island record for me.  If you mean another pianist sitting with me at the same piano, I’d say Keith Jarrett.  But I would be the “phantom” duet partner and would just watch him play both of our parts by himself!!  (Doesn’t he have two brains and four hands?? Sure sounds like it!!)

How was touring with Paula Cole?
Amazing.  I have learned so much from Paula, as a musician and a human being. She is one of the most sincere people and artists I’ve ever met.  Absolutely electric on stage. But fiercely smart and talented though she may be, she has such a gentle spirit.  She loves to learn and is always observing and listening.  She is profound.

Are your skills and style self taught or studied?
A combination.  I spent 11 years training very seriously as a classical pianist, who laid a firm foundation technically and harmonically for me as a jazz pianist and composer.  I also certainly learned a great deal while at Humber College as a jazz major, from the teachers and other students.  As a vocalist, I’ve barely studied.  I had a handful of lessons during my years at college.  But I am now studying voice privately in New York City on a more regular basis with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

How did you select the songs for the album?
I borrowed piles of CD’s from my local library, saturated myself with the music of my favourite Canadian songwriters, then chose the songs that would lend themselves to a jazz context and that I connected with the most.

What have your travel experiences been like, various world festivals?
A luxury.  Though the travel gets exhausting and artists often only get to see airports, hotels and venues (as opposed to actual cities). I’ve been blessed to experience such a breadth of culture still while young and one learns how things vary from place to place, stylistically.  Audiences demonstrate appreciation in very different ways, depending on where you are in the world.  It’s been fascinating.

How’ve you found going from Vancouver to Toronto to New York?
Wonderful!  I still bounce back and forth between all 3.  I don’t feel like a travelin’ gal with no home, but one who has 3 beautiful cities to call home.

What can people expect from Laila in the future?
I just moved to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY and feel like I’ve entered an open and somewhat “anonymous” space where I can be free to shake off any pre-conceived notions and labels that have been used to define what I do.  Definitions and categories can be helpful, but I reached a place recently where I started to feel boxed by labels like “jazz pianist and composer who also sings.”  My ideas about audience expectations in accordance with these labels started to colour the creative process.  I found myself trying to come up with songs that would fit within those labels.  I started to obsess over what people were expecting from me and trying to answer to these imagined expectations.  It completely stifled my creativity.  So moving to NYC was the best thing I could do.  After touring with Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega during in 2007 and early 2008, I found myself wanting to move beyond simply writing instrumental original jazz music and arranging songs by other songwriters.  I wanted to find the intersection between the instrumental music i was already hearing and writing and the capacity of lyrics to connect powerfully with the listener. And so, in a sense, i am exploring a season of song-writing.  It’s very different than just arranging other people’s songs or writing instrumental music.  I find it much more demanding.  But the results are so rewarding.  I’m also trying not to think of myself specifically as a “jazz artist.”  Even though jazz is an incredibly open and generous category, it can also feel limiting.  I want to create music that is its own category.  Something distinct.  Something utterly unique.  All of that said, a new recording is definitely in the works.

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August 2019
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